A piece by Frances Gibb, Legal Editor, in today’s Times:
A carer who guided the pen of a dying millionaire as he signed over almost half his fortune to her family has been stripped of the money and ordered to pay legal costs of £85,000.
Donna Henderson helped Marcel Chu, a retired London banker, to make out a will leaving two thirds of his £1 million estate to her and her children. Mr Chu had made a will in 2008 that divided his estate between his family and a friend. That was before the carer “took control of his life and excluded his siblings” in the year before he died.
The deathbed will — dated May 9, 2014, when Mr Chu was seriously ill in hospital and two days before he died at the age of 73 — added Mrs Henderson and her children to his bequests.
However, Judge Nigel Price said that he had “no hesitation” in ruling that the will was invalid. A handwriting expert had concluded that the signature on the will was not Mr Chu’s and the judge ruled that the dying millionaire had lacked mental capacity when the document was signed.
The High Court was told that Mr Chu of South Woodford, northeast London, had “a relatively close relationship” with his brothers, Allen and Stanley Chu, and his sister, Eva Young, for most of his life.
However, he suffered from Morvan’s syndrome, which causes memory loss and confusion, and he could no longer live without assistance. It was at that stage that Mr Chu hired Mrs Henderson, the court was told. “She took control of his life and excluded his siblings,” the judge said.
Giving his ruling, Judge Price said: “It may be that it is permissible for a testator to be helped in signing a document, but the scope of such assistance must be limited. There is a distinction between leading and steadying the hand.”
He also ruled that Mr Chu lacked capacity, and that the 2008 document was his last true will.
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